It will come as no surprise to the gentle reader that in the midst of recording the preshow for a recent episode of our Percy Jackson read-through show The Jackson Two, I was waxing indignant about the lack of fast-food pasta options available, and was furious to be informed by William that Little Caesar’s–you know, the Bite Bite Sip Sip people–had once traded not only in pizza that, say what you will, is hot and ready when you need it, but also in GODDAMN BUCKETS filled with MOTHAFUCKIN’ SPAGHETTUMS.
Lookathat thing! How flimsy the handle! How it must’ve been filled for years afterward with movie-night popcorn (HOPEFULLY Pop Qwiz), with loose legos, crayons and broken Batmen and G.I.s Joe, and yes, perhaps inevitably, with many barfs? What kind of disciple of Madman Matt would I be if I didn’t take the opportunity to look into this ridiculous container?
Now if you’re like me, you have questions, and also an overwhelming urge to eat it straight out of the bucket like a fucking animal, possibly over the sink, staring out of the kitchen window into the night, freed from the burden of thought. Fortunately for us all, Caesar anticipated this reaction (which really just proves it correct), and included instructions for just such an occasion, breaking the notoriously complex spaghetti process down into four easy steps:
The bread being on the top as some kind of edible lid is an interesting note that I haven’t seen mentioned in any commentary or resources I’ve been able to find, though a 1993 Associated Press article notes that there is a mechanism that keeps “the sauce and the pasta separated from each other”, I guess we have to presume at the bottom of the bucket, based on the above illustration? Some kind of stopper or trapdoor system, like those employed by some kind of Australian pasta-spider? Time has passed, and much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it, so we can’t know for sure but I think we can all agree that this was a uniquely elaborate and thorough spaghetti-system, the peak of 90’s bucket-technology, and that our lives are poorer for its absence.
This delicious-sounding bullshit came in multiple sizes for any and all possible pasta-related needs:
Some of the official materials list four size-options, implying that maybe ‘Family Spaghetti Dinner” is its own size? UNCLEAR. What is clear is that while this may not be the Darkest Timeline–I am prevented from believing so by my remaining faith in humanity, such as it is, and the existence of Peanut M&Ms and my kitten–it’s certainly a less blessed timeline than it would be you I could just swing into a local L.C.’s, of which there are a surprisingly large number near me, pick up a one-person pasta-party and use the bucket afterwards, depending on its size, to serve up cat food, keep D&D dice in or use as an impromptu rain-hat, your noggin secured from the elements by a protective layer of grease that doubles as a pomade.
Look I trade in goofs and fake lies here, but I am sincerely mad that this product doesn’t exist anymore because: 1.) I am lazy and want food to come to me, and that has become more socially acceptable, 2.) I love pasta (see: laziness), and 3.) While many online reminiscences of the product itself are less than generous, it must be admitted that the acceptable range of spaghetti-quality is WIDE AS THE MIGHTY MIS’IPPI.
Fortunately for us all, it would appear that at least one weirdo in the venn-diagram overlap of ‘buckets’ and ‘sketti’ is still out there doing the hard work for all us lazy sinners, a four-location chain in Iowa called Zio Johno’s, who has taken it upon himself to singlehandedly correct what he sees as an unacceptable backslide in our country’s attitude regarding food receptacles because by all appearances there is nothing this madman won’t put in a bucket.
Everyone’s favorite Golden Girls actress turned delicious entry, Estelle Spa-Getty? Ohoho, we are WAY past that, my friend, you have NO IDEA how deep this garlicky rabbit-hole goes, you cannot IMAGINE what this fucker will bucket, this is just the TIP OF THE MEATBALL.
NOWWWWWWW we’re talking, a bucket full of ravioli is an ENTIRELY different creature and sounds delicious and satisfying in its own deeply shameful way. Also holy shit that’s actually really expensive for what you’re getting, jeez, c’mon Zio Johno, what kind of overhead can you possibly have that would justify this?
THAT’S RIGHT, IT’S A SA–a salad? It’s a salad. It’s a bucket of salad. Okay that one actually makes a lot of sense, also what the hell, this is almost the same price as the ravioli-bucket deal? Zio Johno, you expect me to believe that a bucket of salad should cost the same as a two-liter of soda? What the fuck kind of racket are you running over there? Okay this started out as a nostalgia-romp but is now a full-fledged exposé about the bullshit this beloved local institution is trying to pull on the good families of Cedar Rapids, Marion, North Liberty, and Iowa City, this is bucket-monopoly, and I, for one, will not stand for it. This is my Teapot Dome scandal, he said, almost certain he wasn’t using that reference correctly.
And that’s the tale of another of our childhood artifacts gone the way of Butterfinger BB’s and four-armed Grimace; gone, but not forgotten, the memories and the heartburn intact. Sound off in the comments if you have any fond memories of this caloric nightmare, or any similar local oddities, I’d love to hear about them. Until then, I’ll be here, my buckets I paid too much for on eBay the only company I need, a loaf of garlic bread to keep me warm and be my pillow.
Citizens of this post, I come to you from the HAZY, BARBIE PROFILE-PIC-FILLED FUTURE OF APRIL 2023, wherein I am thrilled to report that my very own Mesa, AZ now sports a franchise called By The Bucket that I can only assume read this post way back when and saw that the public was RIPE FOR PASTA-TUBS. I ordered from them yesterday and I am DELIGHTED to inform you that their bucketnoodles are delicious, as is the garlic bread! The only thing that’s a little whozawhatsit is that I did choose Italian sausage as an add-in over the meatballs, which are the like baseball-sized kind you have to break up and I’m not about that life, I bring meatballs together, and to my surprise opened the bucket to find what seemed to be slices of grey pepperoni???
I’m not mad about it! It does present a whole new set of sausage-distribution equations to solve, but what is dinner without spatial calculus.
IN ANY EVENT: I now, through the power of what I can only assume The Secret was about, live in a world where hot, giant-shotglass spaghetti is only a delivery app or a get-my-lazy-ass-in-the-car away, and while that doesn’t make up for whatever disaster-notification will pop up before I finish writing this sentence–oop, there it goes, looks like King Charles bit his brother–it does make our world a sillier, more delicious place, and for that world I will fight, for that world I will slip in sauce and absolutely wreck my shit in front of a nice family on vacation from Des Moines.